If you’ve recently started strength training, chances are you’re eager to see the results of your hard work. And while those results will certainly show up provided you’re consistent, you may not notice them right away because gaining muscle is a complex physiological process that takes time and strategy.
To put on lean tissue — and to see your gains in the mirror — not only must you be consistent with your training regimen, but you must also be consistent with your diet and rest. For maximum muscle gain, you need to train, eat, and recover according to your goals, which means following a well-designed, individualized lifting and eating plan is in your best interest.
So how long does it take to build muscle if you follow a solid plan? And how can you optimize your results? Read on to find out.
How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle?
That really depends on a combination of the factors you just learned about. If you’re brand new to training, you can expect to build muscle quite a bit faster than you will as you continue to train for many months and years.
For most new lifters, gaining a half-pound of muscle per week is a fast rate of healthy muscle gain. But don’t expect to maintain a rate like that for long because your body will quickly adapt to what you’re doing.
Generally speaking, it’ll take about three to four weeks for you to see the beginnings of results in the mirror and about three months for those gains to become really noticeable. But again, that depends on how you’re training, eating, and resting.
Need to train at home? Check out these effective at-home exercises for building muscle.
Factors That Affect Muscle Development
Building muscle mass depends on several factors. Here’s what you’ll need to consider when thinking about how quickly you’ll make those gains you’re after.
The Length of Time You’ve Been Strength Training
If you’re new to lifting or you’re hitting the weights again after an extended break, you’ll build muscle faster than if you’ve been lifting consistently for a long time.
Men produce about 90% more testosterone than women, which naturally allows them to build muscle faster. Males also have larger muscle fibers and more fast-twitch muscle fibers than women, both of which encourage more muscle growth.
If you’re between the ages of 18 and 30, you’ll naturally build muscle faster than someone who is older. A decrease in muscle mass and a reduced ability to build new muscle are natural products of aging.
Resistance training with moderate loads and rep schemes (about 60%-80% of your one-rep max and eight to 12 reps) optimizes muscle hypertrophy (growth). However, training with both lighter and heavier loads is also important for muscle growth, recovery, and strength increases.
Training at a higher intensity elicits more muscle growth than working at lower intensities. Studies show that lifting moderate weight near or to muscular failure stimulates hypertrophy best. **For safety’s sake, this type of training should be limited when performing multi-joint movements like squats, deadlifts, rows, and presses.
Training too long can prompt your body to produce catabolic hormones like cortisol, which limit muscle growth. To encourage more muscle growth, try to keep your workouts intense and relatively short (no need to spend two or three hours in the gym!).
It might seem counterintuitive, but working out every day of the week isn’t great for muscle growth. Taking one to three rest days from lifting is recommended for optimal muscle recovery and hypertrophy.
Rest Periods Between Sets
Provided you’re training near or to failure during your working sets, the longer you rest between sets, the better your muscle-building potential will be. 90-120 seconds between sets appears to be optimal for both strength and muscle building.
Generally speaking, you’ll build more muscle if you’re eating in a caloric surplus (ie: taking in more calories than you burn each day). However, it’s possible to recomp at maintenance calories (lose fat and build muscle simultaneously), especially if you’re new to strength training.
Protein and Carbohydrate Consumption
Dietary protein is highly anabolic, and dietary carbohydrates work synergistically with dietary protein to stimulate the synthesis of new muscle tissue. If you want to make gains, you want to eat a balanced diet that includes the right ratio of carbs, protein, and fat for your body and goals.
If your body is chronically stressed because you’re training too hard, not eating right, not recovering well, and dealing with chronic, life-related psychological stress, you won’t gain muscle as fast as you would if your stress levels were lower.
How Hydrated You Are
Your muscles are 70%-75% water, so the more hydrated you are, the better your body will be able to create new muscle tissue. Water also helps your body produce more anabolic hormones, which are crucial for building muscle.
Your DNA ultimately determines just how much muscle you can build and how quickly you can build it. Some people just naturally have a greater genetic potential for building muscle.
Lack of sleep can limit your muscle growth significantly and can even cause muscle loss if it becomes chronic. One study found that even a single night of sleep loss can reduce muscle protein synthesis by nearly 20%.
If you want to build muscle but have trouble sleeping, check out Tips to Improve Your Sleep Schedule for Overall Health.
Optimizing Your Muscle-Building Potential
What can you do to get the best muscle-building results from your resistance training? Ideally, you’ll want to hire a personal trainer and nutrition coach who can design an individualized training and eating plan based on your current fitness level and goals.
While you can certainly do your own research and attempt to figure things out on your own, working with a knowledgeable and experienced personal trainer can help you accelerate your results.
Excellent trainers know how to design a lifting and cardio program that continually challenges you. They also know how to program your training and rest to help ensure you don’t burn out or suffer training-related injuries.
What’s more, good trainers will demonstrate proper form and correct you as you learn to ensure you’re lifting safely and making the most out of each movement. And if your motivation starts to wain, your trainer can be a much-needed source of accountability and support.
Nutritional coaching can also help you reach your fitness goals as efficiently as possible because what you eat plays a huge role in strength and muscle building, as well as fat loss. Ultimately, eating the right ratio of protein, carbs, and fats for your unique body, metabolism, and fitness goals is one of the most important things you can do to encourage optimal results.
Get a Free Personal Training Consultation in Hopkins, MN
Ready to build some muscle and get fitter than you’ve ever been? Then get in touch with our team at Envision Fitness to schedule your free consultation! Our personal trainers and nutrition coaches are here to empower you to become the best version of yourself, so if you’re ready to make changes for the better, we’re ready to help you do it!
To get started, give us a call today at 952-944-2791 or request a free consultation online, and we’ll get in touch to get you scheduled!